Saturday, August 30, 2008

big american NFL preview: Playoff Predictions

Okay, so I watched one half of the NC State - South Carolina game. For one half, our defense looked solid and our running game looked serviceable, and our passing game was as awful as expected.

Then I watched Obama's speech.

Then the game was over and he Wolfpack had been blown out of the water in the second half. I'm not sure what happened, as I've been a little too disappointed to check out any highlight reels or read any full articles. I have, though, been told that we only completed four passes in the entire game.

It's going to be a long, painful college season. What will the NFL season offer me?

Wild Card Weekend

Seattle Seahawks def. St. Louis Rams
Philadelphia Eagles def. New Orleans Saints
Jacksonville Jaguars def. New England Patriots
Cleveland Browns def. Indianapolis Colts

That's right, there's going to be a changing of the guard in the AFC, and it's going to happen in the Wild Card round, as both the Colts and the Pats will enter the post season too beat up to play on. Over in the NFC, I expect the Seahawks to make quick work of the Rams and the Eagles to edge out the Saints.

Conference Semis

Minnesota Vikings def. Seattle Seahawks
Philadelphia Eagles def. Dallas Cowboys
Jacksonville Jaguars def. Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers def. Cleveland Browns

Yeah, I've got the Cowboys losing. I have them on "prove it" mode. Of course, when I put the Colts on "prove it" mode, all the did was win the Super Bowl. I think the Vikings will beat Seattle by making them throw the ball more than they'd ever want to, and the Seahawks just don't have the receivers to make that happen. In the AFC, the Wild Card upset will have to do for Cleveland, but I see Jacksonville being a little too much for Pittsburgh by the end of what should be a deliciously brutal game.

Conference Championships

Philadelphia Eagles def. Minnesota Vikings
San Diego Chargers def. Jacksonville Jaguars

Holy crap. This is how I always end up losing my NCAA basketball pools. I overthink the match ups game-by-game instead of picking a final four and reverse-engineering how they get there. So now I'm stuck with a prediction of the Eagles in the SUPER BOWL? Jeez. Of course, there's also the fact that I have them in there with the Chargers. I know what people will tell me, that the heart of San Diego's defense is playing on all kinds of hurt and I should be wary of putting them this far but...

Super Bowl

San Diego Chargers def. Philadelphia Eagles

...if Shawne Merriman is willing to shorten his career by playing this season without the surgery, he must know what I know: This is the Chargers year. All he wants is to be a part of it. The Eagles, on the other hand, will have to trudge back home to a fan base that will hate them for losing the Super Bowl and call for the head of Donovan F. McNabb on a pike in spite of his MVP season being what brought them to the big game. 'Cause that's how Philly rolls.

Mmmm...philly rolls...

chad johnson is not, in fact, faster than a horse...

...but Chad Javon Ocho Cinco is!

what was i going to do, also blog about how Obama knocked one out of the park?

I don't know that I have anything to add that can make this picture of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin that could make it any funnier:

The talking heads on my television box all seem to say that picking her helps John McCain's "maverick image." Honestly, if I wanted people to call me Maverick, I'd pick this guy:

He even has experience "keeping up foreign relations."*

*"You know, the finger?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

big american NFL preview: NFC South

Home team shmome team. Delhomme is overrated and Steve Smith is between T.O. and Ocho Cinco in terms of everything I hate about NFL receivers(except at least Ocho is faster than a horse). Thought I'd mention that.

NFC South

4. Atlanta - No need to explain, right? Lots of excitement about Matt Ryan, but there's just too much mess for the Falcons to do well.

3. Carolina - The good news for the Panthers is that Julius Peppers has, from what I've read, looked good in the preseason. The bad news is that it's just the preseason. The offense may be built around Steve Smith but, unless he learns to throw the ball to himself and not punch his teammates, hinges on Jake Delhomme. He's proven himself fragile and streaky. So Carolina finishes out of the hunt in spite of being a dangerous team.

2. Tampa Bay - Gruden has his Bucs team put together the same way as last year's AFC South champs(solid defense and a thousand questions at quarterback), so they should compete for a wild card spot. Why only a wild card spot?

1. New Orleans - I don't at all expect last season's slow start from this team. They can easily win 7 or 8 of their first 10 games, even. Their two hardest games (Vikings and Chargers) both come in the Superdome, even. Still, the team isn't invincible, and I expect a few losses that none of us will be able to explain and then a couple more as the Panthers, the Buccaneers, and Saints beat on each other to the tune of no bye week for New Orleans.

Monday, August 25, 2008

i'm pretty sure this is me displaying a problem

I'm watching Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, give a speech at 4:22 Denver local time*. C'mon Democratic Convention, make me excited about Obama again...

*It's probably better than listening to Jim Courier tell us about jet lagged Olympic athletes hitting up the US Open and encouraging the kids at home to abuse Tylenol PM...

big american NFL preview: NFC West

So here's where I melt your brains with my predictions.

NFC West

4. Arizona - Kurt Warner will be the starter for the Cardinals, and the Matt Leinart era seems like it will never really get off the ground. There's no run game to speak of, and an unremarkable defense. Plus, they're still the Cardinals.

3. San Francisco - J.T. O'Sullivan will be the 49ers' starting quarterback, which may be the end of the Alex Smith era before it really did anything. Mike Martz might have a shot a bringing the offense up to snuff in another year or two, and the defense may eventually also come around. Not this year, though.

2. St. Louis - Stephen Jackson might be a heckuva runner, and Marc Bulger is a perfectly serviceable quarterback. I think that, especially with San Fran and Arizona on their schedule twice, the Rams have a chance to score some cheap wins. The question marks on this team are the lines, both offensive and defensive. Normally that's enough for me to demote a team to the gutter, but I have a gut feeling about this team. If the top of the NFC South cannibalizes itself just right, the Rams might even sneak into the playoffs. Not for a long stay, but still...

1. Seattle - Even with an injury-prone receiving crew, the Seahawks should win this division running away. They have what's silently been one of the NFL's better defenses coming back and Julius Jones should be solid on the running duties. They aren't built for a championship, but they'll still be playing in January.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

no one will care about michael phelps again for four years and i'm okay with that

The juxtaposition of the Chinese part of the closing ceremonies for the Summer Games with the "passing of the torch" to the British (featuring the transforming double-decker bus of DOOM w/ creepy dancers dressed as the 1980s) just goes to show that Andi was right about who should host Olympic games. After the opening ceremonies, she declared that only nations with a chip on their shoulder, something to prove to the world, and an excellent sense of spectacle should be allowed to host(Rio in 2016!).

She was also correct in saying that this thing looks like something from a Dr. Seuss book(if I had to guess, I'd go with And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street).

As for me? I want one of these(or at least hope they make it to the Tron sequel).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

my face hurts a little bit this morning

I had more fun in 25 minutes on stage last night than I should ever be allowed. That is all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

big american NFL preview: NFC East

I like to think I know football. And then fantasy sports cancel out my confidence.

My first attempt at fantasy football was a general mockery, as I attempted to put together a fantasy team that would win a championship. I took a tight end with my first pick (17th overall) because I found him to be the best available player on the board. What I found I should have been doing is finding the biggest stat-whores in the NFL and drafting them quickly.

So on my second attempt, I think I put together a solid enough fantasy team consisting of players that I think will rack up points and a few Chicago Bears(I did not, however, make good on my promise to draft Kyle Orton in a late round). My only real problem came when I would see what I thought would make a great pick still on the board and wondered if he'd just shattered his spine or found his way into some other injury I didn't know about to be on the board so late.

No one openly mocked my picks, so I may be okay. Maybe.

I have no players from -and therefore no natural transition to- the

NFC East

4. Washington - With apologies to Laul Peeland, the NFC East is just too hard for a Redskins team that's got "pretty good" written all over them to do any better than 4th place in the division. I never go with first year coaches to do well, and sometimes they prove me wrong. So here's your shot, Zorn.

3. New York Football Giants - The conventional wisdom is that one of the Super Bowl teams misses the playoffs in the following season. I have New England in the playoffs, so now I have The New York Football Giants falling just short. Could be the worst reason for a ranking since I started doing this.

2. Philadelphia - I like the addition of Asante Samuel to the defense. I like Westbrook running the ball. I am holding onto the idea that Donovan F. McNabb has one more pro bowl year in him. I like the Eagles as a playoff team.

1. Dallas - Too much defense. Too many weapons on offense. Too much to prove. The Cowboys are going to rip through the regular season. But can they get it done in the playoffs?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

big american NFL preview: NFC North

People always talk about how the quarterback is the most important position in sports. If they're not right, they're at least in the argument. What does this mean to me? It means that I should prepare for football season to be long and painful. The QB race at NC State has been whittled down to two guys, but at this point one of the three who were competing for the spot a month ago should have started to stand out.

The old saying goes "If you think you have two starting quarterbacks, you probably have zero." I'm screwed.

NFC North

4. Detroit - They started out last season pretty well, but then remembered that they're the Lions. Calvin Johnson has been a preseason beast, but that's the preseason kids. I'd like to point out that Jon Kitna is far and away the best quarterback in this division. Before you start telling me how I just negated all of that important quarterback talk, though, I'll remind you that we're talking about being the best quarterback in the NFC North - almost as backhanded a compliment as can be doled out. Except for "game manager."

3. Chicago - Speaking of game beloved Bears are starting Kyle Orton. He's not going to turn the ball over much, but let's see what's around him. A #1 receiver who's a converted kick returner that couldn't always catch punts on the first try, his #2 option is Marty Booker (who I love, but c'mon...), a running game consisting of a rookie that no one outside of New Orleans had ever heard of before the draft and the other Adrian Peterson, and an aging and injured offensive line. Wait, my boys are stacked at tight end with Clark, Olsen, and Marcus Stone(maybe he could quarterback in a okay). Well, maybe the defense can score lots of points. Except it's foolish to think that this crew is making it through the year without injury - and they'll be defending too many short fields. Still, better than the Lions is something. Right?

2. Green Bay - The Packers shows us a lot last season. Can they show it without Favre? The worst thing to come of the whole situation with this team in the off-season is that there's a tiny part of me that wants Aaron Rodgers to do really well this season. Which makes me feel very, very dirty. I don't think they'll get it all back, just based on how big a change they're looking at offensively...but I wouldn't look forward to playing against them.

1. Minnesota - Run the ball and stop the run. Adrian Peterson had a rookie season words can't accurately describe, and running backs typically have exponentially better sophomore outings. Minnesota returns the best run defense in the league. Even with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback the Vikings are looking at a week off between 17 and their first playoff game.

Friday, August 15, 2008

big american NFL preview: AFC South

So why has it taken me so long to make with the rest of the AFC previewing? It's honestly because I was trying to talk myself into calling Indianapolis not willing the AFC South this year. I mean, the AFC South should field four playoff caliber teams this season. Since I have Pittsburgh and Cleveland in the playoffs, though, two worthy teams are going to get left out. Could I man up and make the upset call rather than making my AFC predictions a boring sweep of last year's division winners repeating?

AFC South

4. Tennessee - Look, I think that the Titans are going to be a very good football team this year. They're returning a defense that will keep you from running the ball and have given Vince Young some quality targets to throw the ball at. The problem I see for them is a lazy running back and all of the talk of Vince Young(who threw nearly twice as many interceptions as he did touchdowns) being improved coming from specialty coaches on the team. As a Bears fan, I know that if the only people talking about how great the QB position are the coaching staff, you're screwed.

3. Texas - Texas is going to show us a beastly front seven that I'm going to enjoy watching on Sundays this season no matter who they're playing(unless it's the Bears - who are on the schedule). The offense should be improved through some additions to the O-line, but it will still be a pretty one-dimensional, Schaub-to-Johnson as their main weapon, offense. That won't be enough to win the big games in most cases. Texas will finish just out of wild card contention.

2. Jacksonville - The Jaguars picked up some receivers via free agency and some pass rushers via the draft. This should make them better than they were last year, having addressed their chief deficiencies. The receivers are good, but not big-time playmakers. The pass rushers will still just be rookies. I can't pull the trigger on this being the year they finally overtake the Colts.

1. Indianapolis - I'm a wuss. The Colts are sporting the same ridiculously talented team they always have, but this year they seem kind of injury-prone. Since I can't predict injuries, though, I have to make them the favorites for this division yet again. I expect, much like New England, that they'll be feeling the effects of a long season when the playoffs get here. Then again, all of the would-be injuries I have dancing around my barin may just be me having watched too much NFL Live over the past month. If that's the case, the Colts have to be considered the AFC's front-runners.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

at long last, the moderate amount of apology i feel i'm due

In an interview with GQ, Aaron Sorkin says some things that need to be said. The article can be found here, but I'm going to repost all the good bits because I think there's a lot of good stuff here and you shouldn't have to click away from the splendor of a blogspot template.

Sports Night ran for just two years. I gotta say, It always seemed like a weird fit for ABC.
Yeah. Sports Night was on right between The Drew Carey Show and Spin City. ABC would tell me, “You’re losing 20 percent of Drew Carey’s audience.” I would tell them, “I don’t think so. I think I’m losing 100 percent of Drew Carey’s audience.”

Kapow! Take that, people who think Ryan Stiles is funny! Sports Night may very well be the greatest TV show ever. Also, it's probably the only show I ever truly got angry about the premature cancellation of.

[Barack Obama] is a man who—the Jeremiah Wright of it all aside—was clearly paying attention in church. I don’t need to tell you that I’m a big fan of oratory. A big part of leadership is the goose-bump experience. We’ve been missing that.

You mean hearing an overwhelmed man-child trip over his words doesn't inspire awe? Didn't Sorkin get the memo that leaders that inspire us have been replaced by leaders we'd want to have a beer with? I mean, that talking point is almost 5 years old!

Why didn’t Studio 60 work?
I made too many mistakes. I would give anything to go back and get another bite of that apple. Basically, to use a sports analogy, you can have the best team in football playing the worst team in football. But if the best team in football throws four interceptions, they’re not going to win.

That sounds a little arrogant.
I’m helped by a staff of people who have great ideas, but the scripts aren’t written by committee. I was too angry when I wrote Studio 60. The show became like the cover of Abbey Road. Everybody was trying to figure out who this character was in real life or what that incident was trying to be. But the anger—it was a post-9/11 anger. We were going through a time when the television networks were so sensitive toward appearing patriotic. And patriotism was just being questioned all over the place. It just seemed like the wheels had come off our national culture.

Do you feel guilty about Studio 60’s failure?
I felt like I had let so many people down—from Warner Bros. and NBC to the cast and crew. You live and die with these things. It is a feeling that you can’t look these people in the eye anymore. Someone like Matt Perry.

It’s tough to feel bad for Matthew Perry.
Exactly. Yet you do.

He nailed part of it. It's not that when something is upsetting Sorkin, he's traditionally subtle about it in his scripts or anything. It's just that -and he recognizes this- that he was especially ham-fisted with Studio 60.

The rest of it, which he only kind of alludes to with his "Abbey Road" comment, is that the awkward reenactment of his relationship with Kristin Chenoweth played out horribly and did more to cripple the show than anything else.

Sometimes I wonder how I managed to make it through the entire series. It's firmly behind us now, though, thanks to this (sort of) apology. Now let's get to making the next Sports Night, Aaron. I would appreciate it greatly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

speaking of guys you really want to do well...

A few days ago, I got an email alert from WRAL's automated sports updates basically saying that Jeff O'Neill will be reporting to camp for the Hurricanes next month. The hockey world at large will go untouched by this news, but I'm rooting for good things to come of this.

O'Neill became my favorite player at my first NHL game when he got knocked down in front of the opposing goal, noticed the stray puck, and shoved it into the net while on his butt. The shot looked more like a guy trying to back-paddle his canoe than score a goal.

It turned out that O'Neill was a pretty good Hurricane to pick as my favorite over the next few years. He was one of the best players on the team for most of that time(if not the best), a huge part of the run to the finals in '02, and I always thought he was just one monster season from being a guy the NHL could really use to market the sport. Maybe that was just me.

I'm not sure what state O'Neill's game is in after a year away from the league and some pretty unsatisfying numbers in Toronto; but won't it be great if he comes in and reminds me of the guy who was my first favorite Hurricane?

big american NFL preview: AFC West

Sometimes you just have to pull for players. I have two enduring images of Philip Rivers from his time at NC State. The first one is the trick play his freshman year that saw him catching a touchdown pass against UNC. It was the Wolfpack's first football win over Carolina in what seemed like forever(which was an odd feeling, given that I was a Jr. at the time and had been raised on Duke rather than State), and that play was the icing on the cake.

The other one - and probably the more important one - is from Rivers' final game with the Wolfpack. A blowout win in a crappy bowl that underscored just how heinously State underachieved during that season. Rivers was clearly, in spite of the bowl he was in, having the time of his life. Laughing on the sideline with his teammates, asking which of them had yet to score a touchdown in the game, and if they would like one.

He isn't that guy in San Diego. But I still pull for him pretty hard, hoping that he'll ease into a spot that lets that guy come back for NFL fans to see. He'll be back in the playoffs this year, the question is whether or not he'll be in as a heavily favored team or a misnamed #4 seed. Either is possible.

AFC West

4. Kansas City - The good news? Larry Johnson seems to be healthy. The bad news? He and Tony Gonzalez combine to form roughly 90% of the talent on that offense. Defensively, the Chiefs made some quality draft choices (Glen Dorsey and Brandon Flowers) and should frustrate a lot of offenses. In the end, though, you need points to win a game. The defense will be good, but not a point-producing one. And the offense, even with a healthy Larry Johnson, doesn't have enough punch.

3. Oakland - The Raiders have a scary amount of talent. And something to prove. But As long as Al Davis is in charge, mediocrity is the best they can hope for.

2. Denver - They'll show up to every game. Win some they should lose. Lose some they should win. Ultimately, though, they won't have an impact on the NFL-at-large.

1. San Diego - This defense is built to take the ball away from you. They'll get tons of pressure on the quarterback, and have all-universe corners in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. Of course, the Chargers offense is also still stacked with an embarrassment of talent. The problem is that it's injury-prone talent. If Rivers, Gates, LT stay healthy? This could be the best team in the AFC(especially with Chris Chambers coming in on the ground floor for this season). If not? Still playoff bound, maybe even with the bye.

Monday, August 11, 2008

big american NFL preview: AFC North

The AFC North is going to be pretty interesting, because all of the teams have the potential to put together a great game at any moment. Three of those teams also have the potential to be blown out of the water at any given moment. Still, I think this is the only division that could possibly keep the AFC South from fielding three playoff teams again this year.

The AFC North

4. Cincinnatti - The Bengals have all the talent in the world at the skill spots on offense. They also have a lot of drama surrounding Chad "Faster Than A Horse" Johnson. More importantly, they have no defense. They might put some games together and ruin the season of a team or two, but they're not contenders.

3. Baltimore - Baltimore hasn't changed much from the team that managed to lose to Miami last year. I don't expect Joe Flacco to make a huge splash this season. I do expect Baltimore to run the football a lot, stop the other team from scoring, and play in the most games settled by 7 points or less. Unfortunately for the Ravens, in those games you're only as good as your quarterback. Flacco isn't ready and Kyle Boller won't win that game for you. Expect a lot of heart-breaking losses, Ravens fans.

2. Cleveland - The Browns are going to score a lot of points. A lot. They will score and score often. Derek Anderson has two obscenely talented targets in Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, the O-line is solid enough for Jamal Lewis to have another good year carrying the ball, and they play the defenseless Bengals twice. The defense has been beefed up considerably, too. The only thing keeping them away from winning this division is that they're weak at the cornerback spot, and will probably give up enough long plays to come out on the losing end of a few shootout-style games. The Browns are, however, playoff bound.

1. Pittsburgh - The Steelers are going to be a large task for any team this season. If rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall works out well, he and Willie Parker could be the best one-two punch in the NFL. Easily enough to keep enough opposing defensive players in the box to free up Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes for Ben Rothlisberger (who I'm finally starting to come around on...just a few years after everyone else). The Steelers always feature hard-nosed defense, and they'll need it with their schedule; which includes the Colts, Patriots, Chargers, Cowboys, and the in-division offensive juggernaut Browns. I have just enough faith in this team that I think they'll come out of that slightly ahead of the Browns, but pretty worn out come playoff time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

big american NFL preview: AFC East

So. Brett Favre is a Jet. Yep. J-E-T a Jet, Jet, Jet. There are some things to keep in mind as Favre begins his career in New York. The first one is that, while he had an admittedly tremendous season in '07, he was starting to show some age and decline in '05 and '06. The second, which should be thought of in conjunction with the first, is that Favre won't be dealing with a Wisconsin-based media that adores him. He'll be dealing with a New York media who will throw anyone and everyone under the bus unless they're just shy of perfect. So it takes him a while to learn the offense with the Jets, or he starts to slip back into that 2005-2006 form, will he be able to handle the trash that will come from the NY media and the NY fanbase that feels they're entitled to annual championships with all of their teams? My money is that they make him cry. He does that a lot.

Now that we know where the Favre has landed, we can start looking ahead to the 2008 NFL season. Why not start with his new division, because it will be the only way for Favre to be first in anything this year.*

AFC East

4. Miami - The Dolphins had a tremendous draft and made some quality moves, but there was more wrong with that team than can be solved over one off-season. That's pretty much what there is to that.

3. New York - The Jets have, in theory, just received a quarterback upgrade. But this is still a 4-12 team from '07. It's going to take more than that to bring them to the next level. They beefed up their O-line a little, and Thomas Jones is still a more than capable runner, but I just don't see it coming together for a playoff run. As a matter of fact, I think they won't even get a sniff at a spot.

2. Buffalo - They showed flashes of brilliance last season behind Trent Edwards at the QB spot. The offense may get hot and cold, but there is a chance they will be more than solid. Defensively, the Bills have a pretty solid-looking defensive line with Marcus Stroud and Aaron Schobel there to cause all kinds of headaches for opposing offenses. Unfortunately for Buffalo, there isn't much going on for them once you get past that strong front. Don't expect much from the Bills, but an 8-8 finish will probably be good enough for second place in this division.

1. New England - I wanted to say that the weight of blowing a run at 17-0 would cripple the team for this season. I wanted to say that the chinks in the armor that started to show towards the end of last season would be exploited this season. The fact, though, is that they're bringing back every piece of that offense that did nothing but set records last season. The fact of the matter is that they've addressed a lot of the problems in their secondary. There will still be parts of their defense that will succumb to injury and/or age but, like last season, that will affect them in the later stages of the season, when they'll have already locked up the AFC East. So I can't predict anything but more success for this squad in the immediate future.

* Except interceptions

they love them some Yao Ming over there

Usually, I have no use for the Summer Olympic Games. This year, though, I find myself pretty excited about international basketball. Why?

1) The rest of the world has caught up. The US has lost international play, and games not involving the US aren't going to be unwatchable. More importantly, this all makes it okay to pull for the US team without feeling like I'm supporting the neighborhood bully.

2) Roundball Rock. Because NBC is carrying the games, the fantastic NBA on NBC theme song that has been MIA since NBC stopped showing NBA games, is back. It's probably the best sport-related song ever.* "Roundball Rock" was, of course, written by NC State's own John Tesh.

Go international basketball!!!

* #2 is "Brass Bonanza." #3 is the original Sports Center theme.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

how innuendo can segue into a shameless plug if you're not careful

This morning, Ross White brought me into his office and offered me a can of his cherry-flavored soda.

Then he told me to blog about it.

I feel like I owe you more than just a crude suggestion about what Ross and I do behind closed doors. So let me tell you what we did behind closed doors with Beans, Larry Larr The Wizard, and The JMatt. We got the band back together.

For those new to the scene, we were once called Destroy All Monsters. We performed long form improvisational comedy together in a time when most of the greater Raleigh area was unaware and/or unsupportive of that flavor of improv. I was later on teams that were technically better, but I never had more fun than I did with the Monsters.

D.A.M. eventually went our separate ways (with a few random shows in an ice cream parlor on "Historic Airport Road" in Chapel Hill). A few years later, The Worx started embracing long form. JMatt, Larry, and Beans all began to perform with teams formed from that change in philosophy.

When I rejoined the Worx following my nonsense-induced exile, buzz about a Destroy All Monsters reunion began(from those of us who were in it...and from no one else...but still, buzz). The only problem is that I had no desire to make myself eligible for long form at the Worx and Ross had retired from improv altogether to pursue his MFA and to occasionally say "hi" to his wife.

Recently, though, Ross graduated and a new timeslot at the Worx with more relaxed membership requirements opened up. Once an opportunity to get the band back together for a one-off show this coming Friday night at roughly 11:00 PM presented itself, it was hard for any of us to say "no."

So we practiced Monday night. Ross was coming back from years away from the stage. DSI was still doing shows at now-defunct Kings Barcade in downtown Raleigh the last time I was a part of a long form improvisational display. Still, I wanted it to be like riding a bicycle.

It wasn't.

But it was fun. It was lots of fun. I wanted to break out the improv toys that the Comedy Sportz/Worx show doesn't really allow for, and got way too overzealous in spots. We're all comfortable enough that the scenes got disturbingly dirty very quickly. And you know what? People are still going to laugh so hard they pee a little bit come Friday night.

The band is back together for one night. I can't wait.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

this entry is dumb. very, very, very dumb. i do not suggest reading it.

So here's something I thought about this morning that caused me great worry. Automatic toilets, the ones with the sensors that see that you've moved away and thusly let the toilet know to flush itself, have no manual handles. What if the sensor breaks?

Why am I thinking about these things?

i promised you ideas, so here are my ideas and a disclaimer (finale)

Continuing from this entry, here's the key to making my ridiculous plan for a religious left movement work.

4) Remain distanced

We are not to be an arm of the government, and the government is not to be an arm of the Church. Those aims are neither good nor theologically sound.

Earlier, I referenced the idea that we should never be about getting "our people" in power. Instead, we should constantly be scrutinizing those who are in power and those who seek power. We should be the Old Testament prophets needling the kings into doing what is right (if we learn how to call down pillars of fire, please do so responsibly).

It is important for us to remember that Church and State need to remain separate. We don't want anyone to legislate our faith, only the values that we posses based on that faith. If we somehow find ourselves in favor of a vast majority of our lawmakers, it will still not be our job to prop those lawmakers up. Honestly, we should be putting those under even heavier scrutiny. If someone from our ranks decides to seek office? They get the heaviest possible scrutiny.

So there will be no campaign contributions. Not from us as an organization. If we, as individuals, want to give money, time, or whatever to a campaign we can go nuts. But as a group, giving money or producing a commercial is an endorsement. And we're not doing that, remember?


These are just ideas. I don't know if these ideas even make sense to anyone but me. I don't know that these are even implementable ideas. Even if I was 100% solid that this would be a worthwhile endeavor that made a real difference to those who feel abandoned by the church or to actual policy, I'm not sure how I would go about executing these things.

But if you see this and think I'm onto something, we should talk.

Monday, August 4, 2008

you were promised ideas, here's the middle (part two)

Continuing from this entry, I bring you parts two and three of my four-point plan to creating an effective religious left group for all involved.

2) Get the word no one in particular

So we have our values down, but we're still far from taking our list to Washington and demanding results. The next step is presenting the ideas and values we've decided we're for to the world-at-large.

If the goal is to create a place where liberal Christians can have a dialogue, then the best thing we can do is open that dialogue to as many people as possible. If the goal is to state plainly that the Church as a whole has not abandoned everyone but the fundies, crazies, and crazy fundies; then the best thing we can do is create a place where people who are struggling with what the Church has become don't feel abandoned. If the goal is to eventually affect policy in this country, then the best thing to do is build up a large number to demonstrate that we vote on our values.

No matter what we want to achieve, the best thing to do is get as many people on board as want to be on board.

3) Let them come to us

Jim Wallis is fond of pointing out in books and interviews that Martin Luther King, Jr. never endorsed a politician. He made politicians endorse his agenda. If someone with legislative clout looks at what we're doing and says "I'd better get behind that," that's fantastic.

We won't get into the habit of endorsing politicians, though. To endorse, say, a Pennsylvania Democrat because that Democrat is with us on initiatives which address poverty could very well hitch us to that Democrat's anti-choice stance that was necessary to remain politically viable in that state (or commonwealth, if you want to be accurate). There's a better than average chance that this thing we're building wouldn't want to be attached to that. If that same Democrat wanted to point to what we have to say about the treatment of those who are struggling? We couldn't stop that from happening.

There should be a very clear difference between "The Senator is with us" and "We're with the Senator." And we should always be on the correct side of that difference.

To be concluded...

more thoughts on something you're tired of hearing people think about

It's August. Steve Smith is punching teammates. It must be time to preview the upcoming NFL season. But I can't. Not yet. Because we don't know where Brett Favre will land. It looks like the deal right now, unless a deal can be made in the next 12 hours or so, is that Favre will show up to Packers camp and compete for the job he abandoned a few months ago while weeping like the 1998 ladies of Camp Rockfish during Armageddon(and, knowing what we know now, with about as good a reason).

If Favre stays in Green Bay, that really only messes with Green Bay. Even the most mature of players will have, at some level, taken a side. Either with Rodgers (he doesn't deserve to be jerked around like this because some dude didn't think he had the guts for training camp last winter) or with Favre (he's Brett Favre). I'm more interested in what happens to Green Bay if Favre is traded. If Aaron Rodgers plays reasonably well(not great, but not badly...perhaps someone refers to him as a "game manager") after this supposed trade, I see one of two scenarios playing out.

1) The team is galvanized. They get together, say "it's behind us now," rally around Aaron Rodgers, and continue where they left off last season as a contender in the NFC.

2) The legend of Brett Favre haunts the team. This is already going to happen with the fans. If Favre is elsewhere, the fans in the stands will compare every move to their version of Brett Favre, who suddenly will never have thrown an incompletion, an interception (Hah!), or even had to toss a pass to a check-down receiver. They'll say that every Aaron Rodgers incompletion would have been a Favre completion. Every Rodgers interception would have been 5 Favre touchdowns. That's what Packers fans are going to do. There's a chance that the team might fall into that trap, too. And that makes for disgruntled players who don't believe in their quarterback, even if he's doing pretty well for himself.

Now, if Favre is shipped out of town and Rodgers isn't cut out to be an NFL starter after all? The Packers franchise will go into a tailspin and be unable to recover for at least four seasons. The young talent will start demanding to get out of town because no one will be on the same page with the coaching staff or management. The fanbase will be crushed, and forced to buy Bart Starr throwback jerseys. The Bears, Lions, and Vikings get two free games per season.

All of this is completely independent of what Favre would do on another team. If Rodgers isn't up to the task, it just won't matter. If Favre is great for the Vikings and takes them to a Super Bowl? Of course Wisconsin will weep. Even if he's terrible for the Bucs, though, and ends up losing his starting job to one of their other six quarterbacks; the word from Green Bay will be that Favre would have thrived on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

So let me reiterate: I have loved every second of Favre and the Packers organization playing "douchebag chicken" with each other. But I will not make my (often inaccurate) NFL predictions until Favre and his interception count have found a home.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

i promised you ideas, so here are my ideas (part one)

The following is based on a promise I made.

I talked with members of ResCom at ACS. I read Jesus for President. I'm reading Thinking Points (one chapter at a time, because there are so many ideas per chapter that you really need to take the time to digest them before pressing on). What I keep coming to is that, in spite of what Jim Wallis says, someone needs to organize the religious left. If it were going to be me, here's what my four-point plan would look like:

1. Values, not endorsements

The Matthew 25 Network is a PAC that endorses candidates and makes radio ads in support of those candidates. I did not know this when I first heard about it. So when I went to their website - which at the time contained a place to sign up for emails, a giant endorsement for Barak Obama, and nothing more - I was deflated instantly.

It's not that I disagree with an endorsement of Barak Obama. As a matter of fact, I fully plan to vote for him in November. The problem is that I didn't yet know that this was a PAC. It was pitched to me as a place where liberal Christians could come together and share ideas. We need this more than we need a group buying radio time in a desperate attempt to counter-message the religious right's statements(if you've read any George Lakoff, you know that this is wasted effort anyway).

The other problem is that there was no statement about why The Matthew 25 Network was endorsing Barak Obama. Is it because McCain is unacceptable? Is it because they think Obama is the Jesusiest? Is it based on his stance on one single issue? Who knows? There is no values statement other than whatever you can glean from reading Matthew 25. You might think that's a no-brainer, but I've seen some wacky interpretations of that passage.

By just showing a picture of Obama with "endorsement" slapped across it, you're aligning yourself with everything about the candidate, whether you believe in every part of their platform or not.

What we need is a list of values. Just a list of the things we believe in, and why we believe them. We need this list to be created independently of political frames. No politicians. No political language. This will not always be easy. It's hard to approach an issue such as abortion without having to weed through all of the frames that have been generated by each side of the debate on this issue. I do think, though, that in this initial stage it is important to try.

By having a list of values rather than a list of politicians, we are leaving no ambiguity about what it is we stand for. By not miring it in political language, we are setting ourselves up as having an agenda larger than politics. In the end, it should never be about getting "our people" in power, just showing what we think those we trust with our votes should be made of.

To be continued...